Gameday Dish: Clippers vs. Timberwolves

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 16-19 Minnesota Timberwolves host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at the Target Center.

Tackling one of the top teams in the league will be a tough assignment for the shorthanded Wolves. They will have to play near-perfect basketball to beat this talented, veteran Clippers team.

The 30-9 Clips own the NBA’s second best record behind Oklahoma, and many consider them to be the deepest team in the league. Coach Vinny Del Negro’s squad has won 7 of their last 10 games including their last two on the road.

All-Universe PG Chris Paul missed both wins due to a bruised right kneecap he suffered in a loss to Orlando on Saturday, and he’ll likely be sidelined again tonight. Paul is averaging 16.8 ppg, a league-leading 2.6 spg and 9.7 dimes per game, which is second In the NBA.

Los Angeles beat the Rockets in Houston on Tuesday 117-109. With Paul out, third-year PG Eric Bledsoe stepped into the starting rotation and put up 19 points, 5 dimes, 7 boards and 2 steals. Also, 6th Man of The Year leading candidate Jamal Crawford poured in a season-high 30 points.

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a frustrating season for the injury-riddled Wolves. Minnesota last played on Monday when they lost at Dallas 113-98.

It was the sixth straight game they played without their star Kevin Love, who is out with a broken shooting hand.

In fact, it was a fracture of the same hand that forced the team’s leading scorer and rebounder to miss games at the start of the schedule.

The 24-year-old, 2X All-Star has participated in only 18 of the Wolves 35 games. In addition, 2012 ROY runner-up PG Ricky Rubio has only suited up for 10 contests after returning from a torn ACL he suffered last spring.

The Wolves coaching staff has also taken a hit. Assistant coach Terry Porter has been filling in for headman Rick Adelman, who’s missed the past five games to be with his wife in the hospital.

Tune in to TNT at 8PM ET to see whether LA’s new varsity squad can keep rolling in the land of 10,000 lakes or if the depleted T-Wolves will improve on their 10-5 record in the Twin Cities.

Gameday Dish: Clippers vs. Blazers

The Los Angeles Clippers come to the Rose Garden tonight to take on the Portland Trail Blazers. This will be their first real road game of the season, though technically Coach Vinny Del Negro’s guys were the visiting team when they beat their fellow Los Angeleans the Lakers last Friday.

Chris Paul and company are now 3-2 after besting the Spurs last night 106-84 at Staples. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 assists. DeAndre Jordan went for 20 and 11, while CP3 had 10 points and 12 dimes In the impressive victory.

The Clips are only 6-32 in their history at Portland, however they won last year at the Rose Garden, beating an Aldridge-less Blazers squad. 2009 #1 overall pick Blake Griffin has faced Portland seven times in his career and has put up a double-double in each contest, averaging 20 points and 13.7 boards.

The Clips’ Jamal Crawford, who played for Portland last season and opted out of his contract, is shooting 52.4% from the field and averaging 21.2 ppg. He shot a disappointing 38.4 % last season for the Blazers.

If the Clippers are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, they must play with consistency night in and night out. They need to put a five or six-game winning streak together and build on that to show they are maturing as a team and growing together.

The Blazers appear to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, determined to prove that they are a competitive team that is capable of earning the playoff spot that eluded them in the spring. The 2-2 Blazers last played on Monday night in Dallas. The Mavs smoked them 114-91, outscoring Portland 31-12 in the 4th quarter.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews each had 20 points in the defeat. Rookie Damian Lillard, the #6 overall pick in the draft, had a rough game, shooting 2 of 13 and dishing out only 5 assists, a season low. In his first three pro games, Lillard had scored at least 20 points and averaged 9 assists.

Coach Terry Stotts’ bench is averaging a league-worst 12.8 ppg. Portland will definitely need a stronger contribution from the reserves to be competitive tonight.

Tune in to TNT at 10:30 PM ET to watch the Clippers battle the Trail Blazers and to see whether the bloom is off the Rose Garden squad’s longstanding home-court dominance.

Fratello Telestrator


Fratello Telestrator

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Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Mo Williams

Ninth-year, 6-1 All-Star PG Maurice “Mo” Williams has delivered off the bench for the Clippers in the absence of top gun Chris Paul, who’s been sidelined for five straight games with a strained left hamstring. Williams scored 25+ points in his last three consecutive games.

Williams added 26 big ones to the scoreboard during last week’s thrilling 91-89 win over the reigning NBA World Champion Dallas Mavericks. Though his 25-point contribution wasn’t enough to lift L.A. to another W in Friday’s nail-biter against the Timberwolves, Williams sank another 26 points in Sunday’s solid 103-91 victory over the Raptors.

When the Cavaliers acquired Williams from the Bucks in 2008, he started at the point guard position alongside LeBron James. “Mo Gotti” put up some big numbers at the end of Cleveland’s heyday and was integral in helping his teammates achieve a franchise-best, league-leading 66–16 record in 2008–09 and top the standings again in the 2009-10 season with 61 wins.

On February 24, 2011, Williams was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Jamario Williamson in exchange for Baron Davis and a first round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. But Williams had to take a backseat after the arrival of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups in December. Williams loves to play, so I’m sure it’s been a challenge for him to adjust to his new role of backup point guard.

Nevertheless, the veteran reserve is doing his part to help the Clips contend this season. Williams is averaging 14.5 ppg in 27 minutes and boasts a 91.3% shooting percentage from the free throw line. He also pulls down a couple rebounds and dishes out some dimes. It’s hard to say how long Williams’ double digit hot streak will last, but Coach Vinny Del Negro will certainly continue to be cautious about returning Paul to the lineup and will limit his minutes until he’s 100%.

The Clippers play three games this week starting with a crosstown showdown against the Lakers on Wednesday the 25th at 10:30 PM ET.